Cincinnati councilman fights FC Cincinnati's bid to demolish 154-year-old church

Club says congregation asked them to buy it
Posted at 2:21 PM, Aug 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-07 00:16:40-04

Cincinnati Councilman Chris Seelbach is trying to save a West End church from the wrecking ball by asking the city’s planning department to designate it as an historic landmark.

Seelbach filed an application for local historic designation Monday, four days after the I-Team first reported that FC Cincinnati was seeking a demolition permit for the building at 1556 John Street.

In a 27-page report in support of the request, Seelbach wrote the 154-year-old building was “important in the development an important part of the story of Reform Judaism and the development of the West End as a center of African American life in Cincinnati.”

Built in 1865, the building is the second-oldest structure in Cincinnati and was constructed as a synagogue. Among the famous religious leaders who preached there were Rabbi Isaac Wise in the late 1800s and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth in the 1960s.

“Through this single structure Cincinnati can trace its early development, its religious and ethnic heritage, and connect with the lives and contributions of Cincinnati’s most important citizens,” Seelbach wrote. “The site is a document of change over time in Cincinnati, of the contributions of specific historic figures, and an important piece of our city’s architectural heritage.”

FC Cincinnati released the following statement opposing the historic designation:

“The team purchased the church at the congregation's request, with the intent to have the building vacated and then demolished. The move to now create a historical designation, after the club's legal purchase and filling for a demolition permit, is nakedly political and inappropriate.”

Seelbach’s request will be considered by the city’s Historic Conservation Board, which would make a recommendation to the Cincinnati Planning Commission and then to city council. Demolition could still proceed if the building is designated as historic, subject to approval by the Historic Conservation Board.